A Time of Plenty Pt. I – The Work Saga

As often as I fall off the wagon, it might not even look like an effort, but … believe me, I do try my best NOT to walk around talking about how busy/hectic my life is. A couple of years ago, I noticed that my almost rote response to the question, “How are you?” was “Tired.” Worse, I began to notice how ubiquitous the response was. Everyone is tired all the time it seems. I began to wonder if being tired was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Consequently, I set a goal for myself … no more saying “I’m tired” especially when I am tired.

And, it worked.

Not like you might imagine, I am not an endless font of energy. Often, I am still tired, but I can work through that tiredness better when I don’t spend all my time talking about. (I think you can guess where this is going.) Having mostly, “mostly” conquered the “I’m tired.” It’s time to set to work on “I’m so busy/stressed/etc.” (Yes, Ousier, I know the Cush would not approve of the etc.) Because it is wrapped up in the work we do and we spend so much time at work, it is much harder to remove this complaint/discussion from my conversation. In fact, the stress and pressure got to me and it was IMPOSSIBLE not to talk about how busy I was this last week. Oh, and next week is not looking much better, but one thing is off my heaping plate, so I think I will at least be able to breathe a little easier. (But enough of the busy talk already!)

Two things influence my desire not to talk about how busy I am. Part of it is wanting to stand out from the crowd a little. If everyone is talking about how busy they are I don’t just want to pile on. It may sound silly, but I think (like with being tired) talking about how busy/stressed/tired you are just typically makes you more stressed/tired. More importantly, I think it is a way of deflecting your role in a conversation. Think about it. When was the last time you had or witnessed a conversation like this:

Person A: “How are you?”
Person B: “I’m so busy. I’ve got x, y, z going on, plus this week there is a, b, and c happening. I just don’t know how I’m going to get it all done.”
Person A: “I know! Just today I’ve got to do p, q, r, s, and t.”

Occasionally, when I participate in a conversation like this listing the things I need to do helps me organize and prioritize the order in which I will accomplish my tasks, but – more often than not – I leave these conversations just more depressed and worried about all I have to do. I really think that reaction comes from not listening and responding to the other person.

Whether we are Person A or Person B, I think that all we really want is for someone to hear us, to share our burden; when the other person just starts into their list it makes us feel un-heard and instead of lightening our load, it simply adds to it. Generally, I try to make sure that when someone shares with me how busy they are that the conversation looks more like this:

Me: “How are you?”
Friend/Colleague: “I’m so busy. I’ve got x, y, z going on, plus this week there is a, b, and c happening. I just don’t know how I’m going to get it all done.”
Me: “Wow! That is a lot. Tell me more about x, y, and z. (Or, if possible) Is there anything I can do to help.”

Even when there isn’t anything I can do to help, I think that really listening to the other person makes all the difference for both of us. Of course, as I have already said, I’m only marginally successful at this, and I have no proof that it works. What I do know is that when I resist the urge to commiserate by talking about my own burgeoning responsibilities I am less stressed.

Sometimes, however, I need that opportunity to vent, and tonight dear Reader, you are going to hear about how busy am. Feel free to stop reading at this point. 😉

Since the Graduate Writing Center opened this fall, I feel like at every turn I think to myself, “I had no idea running two centers would require …. ” Sure, that might be silly, but since I thought of the GWC as an extension of the undergraduate center I wasn’t prepared for all the ways these programs have to be run seperately. Most of the time I try my hardest not to complain about these issues when they make me busy because I know I made this bed for myself, and that I would still make the same decision again, but every once in a while I just need to whine — “It’s so hard!”

So this fall when I was coordinating two programs I was feeling over whelmed, and now this spring I have this set up.

All the regular writing center fall hiring planning for the grad/undergrad centers.
Summer Intensive tutoring hiring, training, and running. (Did I mention this program is not even remotely writing center related? It is barely writing relate anymore.)
The same summer program also wants me to have the undergraduate writing center open more/with more staff this year.

Essentially, between now and August I am coordinating 4 programs, not just my normal two. My work cup really does runeth over. I guess it is a good thing that I’m in a leadership training class now. As I mentioned earlier, sometimes even just listing everything stresses me out — I know I just felt my stress level increase. When that happens I try to remind myself, “At least I’m not still writing a dissertation!”

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